The One Thing People Don’t Teach You About Socialization 

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We take socialization for granted. It’s assumed that we naturally pick up communication, independence, and friendship because this is often how it works for neurotypical children. For neurodivergent children, socialization needs to be explicitly taught. This is where your role as a parent, caregiver, and educator is so important. The one thing they don’t tell you about socialization is that it’s up to you to make a difference in your child’s life.

You Are The Changemaker

There are a lot of ways to teach socialization. Structured workshops and working with therapists are the typical ways to teach. But socialization isn’t something you spend one hour doing, and it’s accomplished. It’s a constant, never-ending process that evolves. 

The most important thing you can do before teaching is model. Show your child what it means to be a friend to them and to others. Introduce them to your own friends, be proud of their accomplishments, and invite them to join your social circle.

Without your support, your child won’t make progress.

The Nuance Of Socialization

Socialization is difficult to categorize because it changes with age, environment, and culture. The social skills that are appropriate for a five-year-old are different from those needed by a teenager. Plus, cultural norms and environmental contexts change how a child should react socially. 

Teaching socialization involves more than basic manners — it’s about understanding cues, adapting to contexts, and knowing the boundaries of acceptable behavior. That’s why it’s a skill that needs to be continually taught.

3 Socialization Examples

Here are three practical examples of how you can explicitly teach socialization to your neurodivergent child

  1. Eye Contact

Eye contact impacts interactions and relationships. As a caregiver, you can explicitly teach this social skill by demonstrating and explaining its importance.

Start by showing your child how eye contact affects conversations. Explain to them that looking at someone while talking indicates interest and care. You could say, “When you don’t look at me during our conversation, it feels like you might not be interested in what I’m saying.” This helps them understand the emotional impact of their actions.

Then, when they do make eye contact, provide positive reinforcement, “Wow, you’re looking at me! That shows me you really care about what I’m saying. Thank you.” This immediate feedback helps them link the action of making eye contact with a positive response.

  1. Enlarge Their Social Circle

It’s essential to provide your child with opportunities to interact with diverse people. This doesn’t mean they only need to make friends with peers their age or other neurodivergent individuals because different types of people will enrich your child’s life.

It could be a sports coach, a family friend, or extended family member. The key is broadening their social circle beyond special friends, which will help them feel more integrated into the community.

For example, you can find students at a local university who are studying psychology or education and are interested in working with neurodivergent children.  While your child might not be friends with the student in the traditional sense, they’ll learn how to manage relationships with others outside their family. The student will also learn how to interact with people different than themselves.

  1. Real-World Practice

One of the best ways to teach social skills is through real-world practice. A simple example is teaching your child how to buy a bag of chips from a store. Start by prepping them at home. Discuss how much a bag of chips usually costs and practice their conversation with the cashier.

When you go to the store, stand next to them and give them the space to handle the transaction independently. Guide them through the process if needed, but allow them to take the lead. This experience teaches them not only the social interaction involved in purchasing something but also the independence and confidence to handle life tasks on their own.

Want To Learn More?

You can help your child navigate the complex social world more effectively. Remember, you are the changemaker, and your guidance can make a significant difference in your child’s social development.

If you want a three-step framework for teaching any socialization skill, we invite you to attend our live event, “Socialization for Neurodiversity,” on July 11, 2024. This workshop will help you be confident in teaching socialization skills. You can click here to save your spot!

And if you can’t join and want frameworks and support for teaching ANY skill, check out Heavenly Home here.